The PRImary care Screening Methods (PRISM) study: Rationale and design considerations

Contemp Clin Trials. 2019 Sep;84:105823. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2019.105823. Epub 2019 Aug 7.


Background: Primary care is the most frequently visited clinic type immediately prior to suicidal behavior, with nearly half of suicide decedents visiting a primary care provider within a month of their death. Data supporting the efficacy of suicide risk screening in this setting is lacking, however. Improved suicide risk screening in primary care could lead to earlier intervention and treatment.

Purpose: The PRImary care Screening Methods (PRISM) study is designed to develop and evaluate the efficacy of an alert algorithm that can be used by military primary care providers to accurately identify high-risk patients, to improve the identification of high-risk patients who deny suicidal thoughts, and to quantify patient subgroups who are more likely to be missed by existing screening methods (i.e., false negatives).

Methods: The rationale of the PRISM study is discussed, along with ethical and design considerations related to the conduct of suicide prevention research. The PRISM study enrolled 2690 patients from six primary care clinics across the U.S. Patients were enrolled during routine visits to a primary care clinic, and completed a battery of self-report scales in clinic waiting rooms. Follow-up phone interviews are conducted 1, 6, and 12 months after enrollment. The primary outcome is suicide attempt.

Conclusions: PRISM is the first study to prospectively examine multiple suicide risk screening methods in "real-world" military primary care clinics. Ethical and design issues were considered to ensure that human participants, especially suicidal patients, were adequately protected while minimizing the potential confounding effect of risk management protocols.

Keywords: PRISM; Primary care; Risk management; Screening; Suicide.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial Protocol
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Algorithms
  • Comorbidity
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Inservice Training
  • Mass Screening / organization & administration*
  • Military Personnel / psychology*
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Management
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Suicide, Attempted / prevention & control*
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology
  • United States